The debate on board the Rainbow Warrior (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
The debate on board the Rainbow Warrior (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
The Rainbow Warrior arrived in Wellington yesterday, and to back up our survey of political parties, we cut straight to the chase with an on board political debate last night.

Climate spokespeople from four main parties came to defend their climate credentials – David Parker from Labour, Nick Smith from National, Jeanette Fitzsimons from the Greens, and Hone Harawira from the Maori Party.

But before the political jousting began, the politicians, media and ship’s crew all sat down for a civil meal together. The mood was great - Hone even grabbed a guitar and started strumming as everyone sat down to eat.

After dinner, we moved down to the ship’s hold to begin the debate, and things got a bit more serious. Speeches were made, contradictory graphs brandished, and the MPs’ favourite political catchphrases repeated.

Sean Plunket chairs the debate (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
Sean Plunket chairs the debate (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
Radio New Zealand Morning Report presenter Sean Plunket hosted and did a fantastic job of pinning down policy commitments from the MPs. He gave each party spokesperson 5 minutes to outline their party’s policies on climate change before posing a number of specific questions about emission reduction target, burping cows and other climate hot topics.

Nick Smith from the National Party (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
Nick Smith from the National Party (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
Nick Smith attacked Labour’s record on climate change, but the opportunity to enlighten the crowd on National’s elusive policy solutions was largely passed over. David Parker promoted the Government’s emissions trading scheme, energy strategy and proposed ban on new thermal power stations. Jeanette Fitzsimmons presented by far the most detailed and progressive climate policies, including no delay on a price on agricultural emissions.

Hone Hariwera (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
Hone Hariwera (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
Hone Harawira spoke broadly about the need for action on climate change, for agriculture to be included in the emission trading scheme before 2013, and for short-term incremental emission reduction targets. He expressed concern about the injustice of delaying the entry of NZ’s most polluting sector from the emissions trading scheme: “If we go slack on the big boys, why should the little boys care?”

Jeanette Fitzsimons (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
Jeanette Fitzsimons (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
The Greens and Maori Party were the only parties to support Greenpeace’s proposals to bring agriculture into the emissions trading scheme earlier than 2013 and an emission reduction target of 30 per cent by 2020. Nick Smith stuck to the National Party’s 50 by 50 line, committing to no interim target pre-2050. Yet as Hone Harawira noted, 2050 is too far out for any form of electoral accountability. Who’s to know emissions reductions wouldn’t be left until 2049 – well too late? 50% reductions also aren’t nearly enough – the science is telling us we need emission reductions of 80-90% by 2050. We were pleased to hear Nick Smith commit to achieving these 50% reductions domestically, stating that simply purchasing offsets offshore “lacks credibility”.

We were even more pleased to hear that the Green Party’s target of 60-90% reductions by 2050 range is under review. Our survey identified this as a weakness in the Greens’ approach on climate change. The Greens are now aiming for a goal of 60% domestic reductions, but that New Zealand takes responsibility for 90% emission reductions (so that 30% could be offsets, purchased by helping developing countries become more sustainable).

David Parker from the Labour Party (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
David Parker from the Labour Party (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
David Parker refused to commit to an overall emission reduction target, instead offering a target of carbon neutrality in the energy sector by 2050 (through an unstated combination of domestic emission reductions and carbon offsets). He also refused to commit to an emission reduction target for the agricultural sector, which accounts for half of New Zealand’s emissions.

Labour’s excuse for committing taxpayers to pay for agriculture’s emissions until 2013? That if they did the Government would have had a big fight on its hands, with tractors up Parliament steps, driven by National MP Shane Ardern Perhaps its time the rest of the country fought back, because this concern over tractors is currently costing New Zealand taxpayers millions of dollars every year in Kyoto penalties and destroying our clean, green reputation.

The debate was streamed live from our website and we’ll put highlights up soon. But in the mean time you can view the full debate as recorded by the good folk from scoop.co.nz at www.greenpeace.org.nz/webcast